I’ve talked about time management before in my blog posts, but there have been a few posts over on Facebook in both writing and narration groups about how people fit in their words around their daily commitments. Some are curious as to how others write while managing family, work, or school; a question came up on the narration groups about how people who didn’t narrate as their main job found the time to record.
I’ve weighed in on one of these conversations publicly, but I try not to add my two cents to these discussions every time they come up. Time management is a subject with which I am intimately familiar, and I see many of the same refrains in the threads of groups when the question of ‘where do I find the time’ comes up. Many of the responses include a mention of not having the time or never having the right time. While it would be wrong for me to make a blanket statement about every situation that comes up involving every person who seeks to write or narrate or do something more creative outside of a regular life, I can certainly offer what I tell my students and colleagues about time management and how I put it to good use in my own experience.
Yes, I teach time management and study strategies and goal setting. It’s part of my paycheck, and I try to practice what I preach. Definitely helps when it comes to classroom authenticity.
For the record, I am married to another adult professional who works 50 hours a week in the IT field and who is pursuing a master’s degree part-time. We have three lovely children who are in school and who have minimal extracurricular activities. I work full-time in academia and I am pursuing my doctorate part-time. I have recorded 21 titles at ACX, recorded and produced nine podcast novels, and have lent my voice to many short stories and fullcast endeavors. I’ve contributed to three of the Secret World Chronicle books, and I’ve written a handful of short stories and collaborative pieces over the years.
It’s never been about time management, though. Time is one of those fluid things that we can’t really manage or save for later; it’s not something to put in a box to give someone else, either. We can’t manage time, but we can select our priorities and choose how to devote our time to those priorities. We can say “this is important, and I choose to do this now ahead of anything else at this moment.” It’s not that the act itself is difficult, but repeating the act every day, for weeks and weeks, can be very challenging.
So, what does a normal day for me look like? A day when I’m in the middle of an audiobook project, have a full day of work and school, and other family duties?
- 5:35AM – Alarm goes off. I get up, get my contact lenses in (we do not function in spectacles, dears), shower, and make coffee.
- 5:50AM – Wake up kids (or double-check alarms). Check for clean clothes, lunches, and breakfast stuff. Assemble breakfast while making sure the other four people in the house are mobile and in some state of dress.
- 6:00AM – Pour coffee, brush & braid kidlet hair, finish up breakfast prep. Sit and drink coffee while checking mail and recording schedule.
- 6:30A-7:30A – Recording; spouse takes kids to school.
- 7:30A – Change, head to dayjob.
- 8A-5P – Dayjob. Lunch is set aside for editing and/or writing. I get in a few writing breaks during the day.
- 5P-7P – Transit, dinner, homework assistance, chores. I cook dinner while the kids help with chores and do their homework in the kitchen.
- 7P-8P – More chores and homework; laundry happens around this time, too. Depending upon the day, we all curl up and watch a TV show or sit around with our respective books. If it’s a really nice night, we’ll take some time for a bike ride. Kids clean up and are in bed by 8:30P.
- 8P-10P(11P some nights) – Writing and homework, or writing and editing. I don’t go to sleep without my daily quota of words for the Magic Spreadsheet. If I finish early, we get to watch a show. During football season, I can write while a game is on. It’s a learned talent.
Of course, that’s not every day or the weekends… I don’t record every morning, and I’m at the point in my doctoral program where much of my dayjob research dovetails with my dissertation research. I do a lot of planning to give me time during the day to read, and teaching in higher education means that I have a lot of time to prepare during the summer months. I’m lucky in that my spouse helps me plan time on the weekends to record and edit, and he’s not opposed to my sitting out in the family room with my laptop, picking away at the next big story for my nightly wordcount.
Learning how to prioritize and picking away at the extraneous things takes practice; there are some things that I can’t pick up until school lessens, and there are some hobbies I can’t pursue when I’m in the middle of recording. I don’t game anymore; it’s not a luxury I can afford, especially with how I love to play for hours on end. I do make time to read, but I catch stories in fifteen minute sets while I’m making dinner or having someone else drive. Podcasts are in my ears while I work; my kids and I talk about school and concepts on our drive home. Some lunch hours are spent at the gym, and audio editing happens in the evening.
Priorities, though. It’s the priorities that drive the time, and knowing the times of day that best fit what needs to be done. For those who want to do more, I can offer this tiny bit of advice. Ask yourself, what are you willing to give up in order to make room for the bigger priority of writing and/or recording? Gaming? Watching a TV show or three? An hour of sleep? Your lunch time at your dayjob?
There’s no right answer, just the answer that best fits the greater goals and aspirations. I gave up gaming and sleep, because… well, because I love narrating stories and voice acting, and I want to get better. Getting better takes practice, practice takes time, and time… time takes prioritization.
So what’s your priority? What are you willing to do for it? Better yet, what’s not a priority, and are you willing to acknowledge it in favor of the dream?